My Father’s Guru

Written in the same debunking manner as Masson’s THE ASSAULT ON TRUTH: FREUD’S SUPPRESSION OF THE SEDUCTION THEORY (1984), this overly glib memoir concludes unconvincingly that P.B. was a charlatan because of his dubious claim to have been awarded an honorary doctorate, his belief in astral travel, and his inferior knowledge of Sanskrit. This gentle wisp of a man, who believed in reincarnation, transcendental meditation, and the possibility of telepathic illumination, deserves better.

Serving as the family’s spiritual advisor and taking young Jeffrey under his wing as a potential initiate, Brunton did not exploit the Massons financially or emotionally (the father’s frequent moves, fasts, and sexual abstinence appear to be natural inclinations) and certainly exercised a more benign influence than, say, the author’s sex-crazed, child-abusing paternal grandfather. If the author’s life was slightly offbeat, going to school in the Swiss Alps, vacationing in India, and residing in Hawaii and Uruguay, it was by no means diminished materially or intellectually by his father’s guru. In P.B.’s parlance more savage than sage, Masson even goes after his own mother for giving him enemas into adolescence and scolds his former babysitter (a buxom twenty-one-year-old aspiring actress) for letting him snuggle up to her while they listened to The Inner Sanctum.

MY FATHER’S GURU compares unfavorably with Geoffrey Wolff’s more subtle and disquieting THE DUKE OF DECEPTION: MEMORIES OF MY FATHER (1979).